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New Moon: Yet Another Movie About a Native American Werewolf

In the first Twilight film, we learn that Jacob Black is a member of the Native American Quileute tribe -- in the sequel New Moon, we find out he's also a werewolf. Not bound by the full moon, the Blacks can transform on command into oversized but otherwise normal-looking wolves. While not particularly creative, it's certainly a refreshing change of pace from the way Native American werewolves are normally portrayed in movies, and there are a lot of them. While most ignore the specifics of the legend, most films that combine werewolves and Native Americans cannibalize the myth (or at least the name) of the "skin-walker,'' a witch or shaman who has committed murder or another deplorable act to gain power or take revenge. (Episodes of Supernatural and The Dresden Files have, as well.) Here are some films that touch on the skin-walker legend.

Wolfen (1981)
Wealthy New York City socialites are getting attacked by wild animals, and a detective (Albert Finney) follows the trail to a community of Native American construction workers who work fearlessly on skyscrapers thousands of feet above the ground. One worker (Edward James Olmos) leads him to believe that he is a skin-walker, and Finney hunts the creature in a desolate area of the Bronx. Worth checking out for the imagery of the ruins of 1981 New York and for an Afro'd Gregory Hines as a morgue attendant.

Werewolf (1996)
This movie is so bad that Mystery Science Theatre 3000 made fun of it only two years after it was released, making it the most recent movie to ever be mocked on MST3K. In the film, the foreman of a Native American archaeological dig scratches himself on the skeleton of a werewolf, becoming a werewolf himself. Later, someone else is turned into a werewolf using the foreman's infected blood, but is killed when he attempts to drive home. Wolfman can't drive.

Skinwalkers (2006)
Despite the title, the rival werewolf gangs in this movie don't appear to be wholly Native American, nor do they practice their craft willingly. Instead, two groups of cursed lycanthropes battle each other over the fate of a boy who may be able to end the curse once and for all. Even Rhona Mitra (Underworld: Rise of the Lycans) and Elias Koteas (The Fourth Kind) can't redeem this movie, which has an awful lot of shootouts for a werewolf movie.

Skinwalker: Curse of the Shaman (2005)
Curses are the name of the game again in this low-budget, digitally shot film about two college students who come to a town where a group of teens vanished after accidentally killing a medicine man. Naturally, the teens are werewolves now, and most of the budget appears to have been spent on makeup, and not, say, lights.

Thunderheart (1992)/Shadowhunter (1993)
Thunderheart, starring Val Kilmer and Sam Shepard, sees a half-Sioux FBI agent sent to investigate a murder on a Sioux reservation, and while it ultimately proves to be a straightforward homicide, Kilmer's agent meets witnesses and suspects who sometimes seem to possess mystical abilities, including the ability to shapeshift. In response, the TV movie Shadowhunter played up the supernatural elements, sending a cop (Scott Glenn) to a Navajo reservation to bring back a killer (Benjamin Bratt) who turns out to be a "coyote man" with the ability to skinwalk.

Deer Woman (2005)
Based on a separate Native American myth, American Werewolf in London director and horror legend John Landis directed this Masters of Horror episode about a deer woman, a spirit who has the feet (and sometimes the entire body) of a deer. In the hour-long movie, a beautiful Native American woman seduces a series of men and then tramples them to death with her deer legs. While she never shape-shifts completely, half a deer totally counts.

Any werewolf flicks you recommend to others? Howl 'em out below.

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